Simeone not ready to start resting Atletico Madrid stars

By Sports Desk July 10, 2020

Diego Simeone is not thinking about resting his Atletico Madrid stars ahead of the return of the Champions League.

Atleti were pitted against RB Leipzig in the quarter-final draw on Friday, with the winner of that game taking on Atalanta or Paris Saint-Germain in the last four of the mini-tournament that will be hosted in Lisbon next month.

Simeone's side will secure a top-four finish in LaLiga if they defeat Real Betis on Saturday - with three games remaining they sit six points clear of Villarreal, whom they hold the upper hand over in the head-to-head record.

Despite being so close to guaranteeing a return to the Champions League next season, the Atleti boss is not considering rotating his players.

"Every time we select a line-up, we do so thinking of winning the game. Tomorrow [Saturday] will be no exception," Simeone told the media on Friday.

"It will be a very important game. It is a game which can give us the access to next season's Champions League, which is what we really want and have been looking for and working towards for a long time.

"We will try to be at our best in the game; looking at the training today in order to know who are best for tomorrow's game, which is the most important. And after, we will try to put that in the pitch, the only useful thing."

Having knocked out defending champions Liverpool in the Champions League last-16 and landed in the kinder half of the draw for the final stages, Atletico are considered strong candidates to go all the way.

Simeone does not see it that way, though, pointing to the threat Leipzig pose.

"They are always the same people who either exaggerate or discredit you. As I am trying to escape from extremes, I will only say what I said already after the draw," the Atleti boss said.

"We are going to face a good team with quick attacking players. A team that scores many goals and finished a great season in Germany."

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    The impact of the coronavirus on the competition's schedule means ties will be settled in one-off matches, all played in Germany, with United facing Copenhagen on Monday.

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    "There are two important games, and a single match in the final. You have to make sure you're highly prepared, you can't make mistakes," Fred told United Review.

    "In league football you still have the chance to recover, you make a mistake and lose the game you can still recover later in the competition.

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    If United do reach the final on August 21, it would mean playing 15 games in 63 days since their campaign resumed on June 19.

    But Fred is not worried about fatigue as he feels the squad are conditioned to such challenges.

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  • Jaw-dropping Champions League comebacks that give Chelsea hope for Bayern trip Jaw-dropping Champions League comebacks that give Chelsea hope for Bayern trip

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    Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool had been well beaten at Camp Nou, with the 3-0 scoreline flattering Barcelona but making the Catalans clear favourites to complete their semi-final task at Anfield.

    Liverpool were without injured forwards Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for the second leg, yet two goals each from Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum saw the hosts defy the odds in sensational style.

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    2019: Real Madrid 1-4 Ajax (5-3 on aggregate)

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    2019: Ajax 2-3 Tottenham (3-3 agg)

    Ajax looked certain finalists when they extended their 1-0 first-leg lead to 3-0 in Amsterdam with first-half goals from Matthijs de Ligt and Ziyech.

    Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs took inspiration from Liverpool's stunning fightback against Barcelona 24 hours earlier, though, and Lucas Moura stepped up to emerge as their hero.

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    2018: Roma 3-0 Barcelona (4-4 agg)

    Barcelona were stunned in the Italian capital as Roma completed one of the most unlikely quarter-final turnarounds.

    Eusebio Di Francesco's side came back from a 4-1 first-leg deficit to progress to the last four on away goals after a thrilling 3-0 win in front of their home fans.

    Edin Dzeko, Daniele De Rossi and Kostas Manolas secured the 4-4 aggregate draw and sent the Stadio Olimpico into raptures, as Barca fell to pieces.

    2017: Barcelona 6-1 Paris Saint-Germain (6-5 agg)

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    Trailing 4-0 from the first leg of their last-16 tie with PSG, Suarez and Messi scored either side of a Layvin Kurzawa own goal, only for Edinson Cavani to grab what was expected to be the decisive away goal for the visitors.

    However, two quickfire Neymar goals against his future club – the second a highly controversial penalty after an apparent Suarez dive – levelled the tie at 5-5.

    Then, in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Sergi Roberto struck to create a slice of Champions League history – no side had ever turned around a four-goal first-leg deficit before.

    2004: Deportivo La Coruna 4-0 Milan (5-4 agg)

    Deportivo were among Spain's major forces just after the turn of the century and one of their finest moments in Europe came in April 2004 when, despite being 4-1 down from the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final with Milan, they stunned the Rossoneri at the Riazor.

    Walter Pandiani, Juan Carlos Valeron and Albert Luque had Depor ahead on away goals before half-time, with veteran Fran Gonzalez scoring the fourth to make sure of their passage.

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    2000: Barcelona 5-1 Chelsea (aet, 6-4 agg)

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    With the announcement that the 2020 Ballon d'Or will not be awarded this year due to the coronavirus-enforced break in play, Robert Lewandowski will feel pretty hard done by.

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    The consistency of Lewandowski's production is phenomenal. Since 2015-16, he has scored 40 or more goals in every season. The only player who has kept pace with the Pole is a certain Lionel Messi, but the Barcelona star will need to score an unlikely 10 more times to hit the 40-goal milestone in 2019-20.

    In his 285 competitive games for Bayern, Lewandowski has hit a total of 242 goals, averaging a goal every 99 minutes. This is a goalscoring machine at its best.

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    A complete forward, Lewandowski works for the team, creates chances for his team-mates and is heavily involved in build-up play. Bayern's last Champions League game in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie with Chelsea can be used as an ideal example of Lewandowski's all-around qualities. He was everywhere.

    Lewandowski's touches at Stamford Bridge on February 25 (from left to right)

    In that game, Lewandowski recorded two assists in a single Champions League match for the first time in his career, assisting the first two Bayern goals for Serge Gnabry before scoring the last himself to seal a 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge. 

    Perhaps 2020 would have been Lewandowski's best chance to become just the second player other than Messi and Ronaldo to win the Ballon d'Or since 2008, but the way his game is improving every season – coupled with the inevitable decline of Messi and Ronaldo – means the Poland goalscoring machine will likely have another crack at the accolade in 2021 and beyond.

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